HARTFORD, CT — Reproductive rights in Connecticut are not in as much danger as they are in other states experts told a group of legislators Wednesday during a roundtable discussion.
That’s because protections in Roe v. Wade were codified in state law in 1990.
But it’s not an absolute protection if Congress seeks to change the U.S. constitution following a decision by the courts. However, that’s an unlikely scenario. What’s more likely is that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe.
President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a politically connected member of Washington’s conservative legal establishment, to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, setting up an epic confirmation battle and potentially cementing the court’s rightward tilt for a generation.
One of the biggest concerns, if Kavanaugh is eventually confirmed is that he may be the swing vote in reversing the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which affirmed the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion.
The good news for those who support abortion rights, according to the experts, is that it’s unlikely Connecticut’s own laws would be overridden by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
“Our state is on solid ground when it comes to abortion rights,” Meghan Holden, communications director for the Connecticut branch of the American Civil Liberties Union told lawmakers.
“If Roe v. Wade was overturned our law would still protect women in Connecticut,” Holden said. “That is not the case in half the states in the country,” she added, stating those 25 states laws are weak enough that a federal change in abortion rights could override state rulings.
Gretchen Raffa, director of Public Policy, Advocacy & Strategic Engagement at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, added that Connecticut is one of five states that hasn’t passed tougher anti-abortion legislation in recent years.
Earlier this year it passed legislation guaranteeing women access to a year supply of contraception, something that has helped decrease the number of abortions.
She said that the number of abortions in Connecticut have dropped 34 percent over the past 10 years – from 2007 to 2017.
“That’s largely because of access to more affordable and effective birth control,” Raffa said.
Raffa noted that Planned Parenthood has been a favorite target of President Trump.
“We’ve been under constant threat since January of 2017,” Raffa said, referring to the month Trump was inaugurated. She said what Planned Parenthood’s critics fail to point out is that “one in five women in this country” have utilized the organization’s resources in some way sometime during their life.
Both U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal have repeatedly stated they will be opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination when he comes up for a vote in the Senate, due to primarily the abortion issue.
And even though some would like to make it a wedge issue in an election year, in Connecticut it’s a nonpartisan one.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, who said when it came to abortion she had“very serious concerns about our (Connecticut) laws, federal laws.”
However, “It is not a political issue,” Klarides said. “It is an issue of health, an issue of choice. This isn’t about advocating for an abortion. This is really about women having a choice. It may not be a choice that I would pick, but all the options should be out there for people to have,”
While there was talk about Roe V. Wade at the roundtable, it wasn’t the only topic discussed, as the group got in a far-ranging dialogue about a myriad of topics concerning reproductive rights.
One that generated a lot of discussion was “crisis pregnancy centers,” which experts and legislators said specifically target women of color and people with less substantial means.
Sarah Croucher, executive director NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, told the group that the pregnancy centers are difficult to police because they masquerade “as nonprofit centers,” which allows them to circumvent regulations.
NARAL found in 2015 that there are more than two dozen anti-abortion organizations posing as reproductive health clinics in Connecticut.
The clinics, known to some as “crisis pregnancy centers” and to others as the organizations behind the ads offering free pregnancy counseling, use a consistent pattern of misinformation, deceptive advertising, and blatant lies about reproductive health, the report states.
While conducting a two-year investigation that culminated in the report, NARAL found that 95 percent of pregnancy centers in Connecticut provide information that is both inaccurate and deceptive, 70 percent did not explicitly disclose that they are not a licensed medical facility, and none offered testing or referrals for sexually transmitted infections.
The reproductive rights group also found that, more often than not, Connecticut crisis pregnancy centers would bill themselves as comprehensive reproductive health centers or medical clinics, either by locating themselves next to licensed centers and clinics, adopting names much like those of medical providers, or outfitting their employees in white lab coats or scrubs.
Legislators told Croucher that they would work in advance of the upcoming General Assembly session to try and craft a bill or bills to better police the centers.
“We need to figure out what the legitimate places look like and what the fraudulent places look like – and then write the best legislation,” Klarides said.